SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr announced that following the signing of the new state budget by Governor Murphy and a redistribution of school funding, the Scotch Plains-Fanwood School District will receive an additional $396,000 in state aid.
The district has the option of recalculating its budget to apply that aid to reduce our school tax. Mayor Mahr and the Fanwood Council urged the Board of Education to do just that.
In a note to municipal managers, clerks, tax collectors, and chief financial officers, Timothy J. Cunningham, Director of the Division of Local Government Service wrote:
With final cation on the State's FY 2019 budget having been taken, additional school aid is being made available to a significant number of school districts throughout New Jersey... Boards of education in these communities are being permitted to reconsider their 2018-19 budgets and may elect to reduce their property tax levies in an amount not ot exceed the increase to their State aid.
District boards of education that are receiving increases in aid are being instructed to contact the chief municipal finance officer, municipal tax collector and county tax administrator to confirm whether or not the district seeks to apply additional aid toward reducing the school tax levy.
Municipalities whose school districts are receiving increased aid shall notify Tina Zapicchi of the Division of Local Government Services on whether or not the school district will be reducing its school tax levy. If the district will be applying additional aid toward reducing the school tax levy, the district will need to revise and submit the general fund tax certification form by no later than 4:00 p.m. on Friday, July 20, unless the municipality and the district agree to a later deadline.
"The money really should go back to the taxpayers," Mayor Mahr told TAPintoSPF. "While the school district is not mandated to do this, it's very clear that there is a path available to do it. Additional state aid should go to property tax relief."
Scotch Plains Mayor Al Smith, in a phone conversation with TAPintoSPF, agreed with his Fanwood counterpart.
"I am personally on record that reinstitution of the Homestead Rebate should go back to the taxpayers. That's what the state money is supposed to do," Mayor Smith said. "I fully agree with Mayor Mahr; return the money to the taxpayers."
"The two municipalities have tightened their belts for the past eight years," Mayor Smith noted. "The school system has to do the same."
According to Deborah Saridaki, Business Administrator for the SPFK12 School District, most of the money from the state has already been accounted for in the budget for the 2018-19 school term.
"The difference in the state aid provided to the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Public Schools between when the school budget was approved in April and the number released in the approved state budget is $69,722," Mrs. Saridaki responsed to TAPintoSPF.
"The balance of the dollars, $326,337, was budgeted in the 2018-19 budget as presented to the public. These dollars were used to fund the hiring of additional staff, including; two elementary teachers, a resource teacher, a .5 ELL teacher, and a clerical person, along with the related benefit costs for these employees."